MSPs to consider enquiry into Armed Forces school visits

Date: 29th November 2016
Category: Armed conflict

MSPs will consider an inquiry into visits by the armed forces to schools amid concerns young people from deprived backgrounds are targeted for recruitment.

James Dornan, the convener of Holyrood's education committee, said he would examine the case for an investigation following a petition raised by the Quakers in Scotland and the ForcesWatch campaign group.

Tam Baillie, the Scottish Children's Commissioner, has called for an outright ban on the recruitment of under-18s to the military, something which under existing Ministry of Defence (MoD) rules can only take place with parental consent and away from school grounds.

The MoD claims representatives only go into schools to give presentations, citizenship talks, hold meetings with staff, participate in career events, practise interviews and hold activities with the students, such as science and maths challenges, as well as indoor or outdoor exercises. But Emma Sangster, ForcesWatch coordinator, said there was no clear guidance and urged Holyrood's education committee to look into the issue.

"We would like to see Holyrood's education committee hold an inquiry into the visits by the armed forces into schools and would like to see the involvement of young people, parents, teachers and others in drawing up guidelines, and a commitment from the armed forces to make accessible good-quality data that covers the range of ways in which they engage with young people in the education system."

The recruitment of minors by the UK Armed Forces - Scottish Parliament

A motion has now also been tabled in the Scottish Parliament by Christina McKelvie MSP around the findings of a recent report by the public health charity Medact. The report examines the evidence that under-18 recruits face greater risks to health than adult recruits across the course of an armed forces career. It provides a strong argument that national guidance to ensure balance is in the best interests of Scottish children.

The UK is the only country in Europe and the only permanent member of the UN Security Council to recruit under 18s to the Armed Forces.

Despite the prohibition of deployment of minors to war zones, the UK deployed at least 8 under 18s to war zones in error between 2005 and 2010.


Early day motion submitted to UK Parliament

More recently, an early day motion has been submitted to the UK Parliament in response to the contents of the Medact report into the effects of the recruitment of minors by the UK armed forces. It calls on the Government to launch a review of the minimum armed forces enlistment age.